Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday Salon: Where do I go from here?

No, this is not a picture of my books...I grabbed it off the interwebs, but if I were to stack up a physical pile of my TBR it would look a lot like this. (Except maybe stacked more like this). Basically, all YA books. I'm not sure how this transition happened. It might have come from the desire to read 100 books a year (which I've failed to do since 2009). YA books are nothing if not immensely readable. Maybe it was because I've been continually searching for a stand-in for Harry Potter (and now a stand-in for the Hunger Games). Or maybe its because they are just fun and require less work--something that I needed while trying to slog through grad school.

But lately, and I've also heard this echo across the blogosphere, I've become somewhat disenchanted with the YA books I've been reading. True gems--YA books that come with not just unique ideas, but also with the writing chops to see it through--IMO have become few and far between. It's not that the books I've picked up have been terrible (except for Fever...I just CAN'T with that book) they just lack some really important qualities.

The lack of fully considered world building has to be on top of this list. I tend to read mostly YA that would fall loosely into the sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal genres and world building is an important part of this genre. Especially for the post-apocalyptic/dystopian subgenre that is so incredibly popular now, thanks to the Hunger Games (which I am happy for, don't get me wrong, it's a favorite of mine). One of the reasons I read mostly YA in this genre is because the incredibly lengthy and elaborate world building of adult sci-fi/fantasy taxes my concentration and strains my ADD brain's ability to retain and focus on details. I like to think of the YA books in this genre as sci-fi/fantasy LITE. But LITE should never mean sloppy or lacking in research. To create a new world that will hold meaning for the reader, authors must first understand how this world works--socially, economically, and politically. The Hunger Games works because Collins thoroughly considers all three aspects in such a way that we can understand that world as its own entity but also in conjunction with our own world. An author can create an entirely new world or simply add new things to our own, but WE must still recognize the logic of that world for it work.

Trite romances. This is a big reason why I don't pick up many books marketed on the romance anymore. If the bulk of the story is based on two star-crossed lovers trying to be together AGAINST ALL ODDS, or the "nothing-is-special-about-me" heroine is pining for the hottest guy in the room and suddenly AGAINST ALL ODDS...he notices her, or the "the-only-thing-special-about-me-is-that-I-put-up-with-all-kinds-of-abuse" heroine (I'm looking at you SOOKIE) just can't understand why the hottest guy in the room is a total douchebag to her but she still wants him AGAINST ALL ODDS. Come on authors, show me what a real romance looks like. How do people really fall in love? This also opens up another conversation that I should probably tackle in a different post, but what are we teaching our teens with these ridiculous romances? Not that I think books should be or have to be role models (especially since we all would disagree on what that model should actually be), but do we have to keep bolstering these "love-at-first-sight/love-at-all-costs" farces? At one point, it was probably fun and escapist--to wish that finding your man and falling in love could be so easy. I would love to read a YA romance where two characters who meet eyes across a crowded room and instantly become soul mates actually DON'T end up together. Could someone please choose Team Jacob? If you found that book, please let me know. I will read it.

I could go on, but I think that's enough to illustrate my point. With all these frustrations, I can't help but ask myself, why am I still reading YA? Will there be a point when I just can't take it anymore and go back to being that "I only read literary fiction" person again? YA authors...I love y'all, but please don't neglect substance while you're giving me fun. I WANT IT ALL.

10 comments:

  1. Kudos to you for elaborating on the importance of world building. I don't read that much fantasy/dystopian YA, but when I do, that's the piece that draws me in when it's done well. Happy Sunday!

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    1. Thanks! It can really make or break a book, so I really wish they'd follow through on that bit.

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  2. I could hug your post. In fact... I just did. :) I agree ... the ever continuing search for the next Harry Potter, the next Hunger Games... if you find it before me, be sure to let me know...

    And yes, YA books in the past have been a summer genre for me ... for some reason I found I read them one after another in the summer time but this year, I have not found that genre to really be calling me... engaging me.

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    1. I love hugs!

      I just finished Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and it definitely had good world building and was lite on the silly romance aspect. I don't know if it has that special something to make it the next Hunger Games, but it was very well done.

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  3. I look at the blurbs of some of the YA books out there (some, I said, lest I anger anyone! lol), I shake my head and move on.

    I do want substance. Some light fluff, but adult fluff, mixed in with issues and substance. Teen books can also have substance.

    Or a great dystopian that stretches our minds with the possibilities.

    Thanks for your post!

    Here's MY SUNDAY SALON POST

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    1. Yeah...I read them and I'm like...seriously? This AGAIN? I want more and I know that YA authors can do it, they just don't seem to be pulling if off at the moment.

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  4. Great post. Agree especially with the instaluv usually between two unsuitable characters so prevalent in YA. Still I keep on reading, also looking for the next gem. Seems like one has to kiss a lot of frogs before finding a prince!
    Gwynneth
    http://todayinshenaya.blogspot.com

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    1. So true. I guess I'm in a frog rut right now. I hope to find a prince soon!

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  5. Really interesting post! I don't think it has to be all or nothing though - and boy do I ever agree with the World building of some adult fantasy/ sci-fi - I need a notebook to get through Mieville especially!

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    1. I have one of Mieville's books and I want to read it, but I'm so intimidated! I very much doubt I'd ever be able to give up YA, despite being frustrated with some recent reads. I probably just need to be more selective.

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